How to get healthy skin: Stay away from the sun & cigarettes
Sun and cigarette smoke are two of the most damaging forces on our skin. While the sun provides our body with the Vitamin D it needs for healthy bones, the ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun are also a form of radiation that can harm our skin. With too much exposure, the structure of skin cells are damaged, and if the skin is repeatedly damaged over time, this can lead to different forms of skin cancer, including carcinoma and melanoma.
Cigarette smoke can also be very damaging to our skin. The chemicals in cigarette smoke cause oxidation to occur, a process by which our skin breaks down from free radicals. When smoke enters the body, free radicals are generated. These free radicals then harm the proteins (such as collagen and elastin), lipids and DNA in our skin. This damage presents itself as wrinkles, thickening, discoloration and an overall lack of elasticity. At worst, it can also cause cancer.
The bottom line: Stay out of the sun and away from cigarettes.
Be mindful of what you put in your body
It may seem like a no-brainer but how we nourish our body has a large effect on our skin health. Certain foods and substances can be especially damaging to our skin, while others can keep it youthful and glowing.
Limit your sugars: You may have heard the news by now that sugar is bad for our health. This sentiment also holds true for our skin. The problem lies in inflammation. Sugar rapidly breaks down into glucose in our bodies causing insulin levels to spike and plummet, a process that causes something called glycation to occur. During glycation, sugar bonds with proteins in our body and produces AGE molecules (advanced glycation end-products). These molecules are known to damage the important skin proteins, elastin, and collagen, responsible for keeping skin firm and elastic. When these proteins are damaged, skin becomes brittle and dry, two factors that promote the appearance of aging.
The good news is not all sugar is created equal. Sugars in fruits, while still encouraging the production of AGEs, don’t cause blood sugar to spike as dramatically as foods with a high glycemic index such as processed foods, cake, and high fructose corn syrup. Vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants present in fruit balance the sugars while also providing beneficial properties for your skin.
Damage from sugar can also be reversed, many people who cut sugar from their diet report clearer and more vibrant skin.
The bottom line: Cut your sugar intake for more youthful skin.
Eat the rainbow: And no, not an artificial rainbow. You may have heard it from your doctor before, but eating lots of fruits and vegetables is key to maintaining healthy skin. Fruits and vegetables contain vital antioxidants that help fight free radical damage. New so-called “superfoods” are being advertised by the minute, but generally speaking, if you are eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables, especially those dark, leafy greens, you will be in good shape.
The bottom line: Eat a diverse and colorful array of fruits and veggies to get the antioxidants you need to fight free radicals.
Drink plenty of H2O: Water is what our body needs to survive and what our skin needs to look and feel fresh and healthy. Drinking plenty of water keeps our skin cells hydrated, which reduces the appearances of fine lines and wrinkles and keeps our skin supple. How much water you need varies based on your activity level, height, weight and the climate you live in, but the general advice from doctors today is to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh. What’s most important is to listen to your body and, when you feel thirsty, reach for water over soda or any other beverage.
The bottom line: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep skin cells hydrated.
Consider your vitamins & minerals: Certain vitamins and minerals contain antioxidants that can have powerful effects on our skin by limiting the damage caused by free radicals. Look for foods that contain selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E to boost your skin health. Healthy fats, such as omega-3s and omega-6s, found in fish, nuts and olive oil, are also shown to lower our body’s inflammatory response and aid in our cell membrane’s ability to hold water.
The bottom line: Eat foods containing Vitamin, A, C and E as well as healthy fats like omega-3s and omega 6-s to lower inflammation.
How to get healthy skin: Kick up your feet and find time for sleep & relaxation
Our lifestyle plays a large role in our skin health, and how much stress and sleep we get are two lifestyle factors that are quick to show up on our skin (just think of those puffy eyes we all get when we haven’t slept much).
Manage stress: When we are stressed, our body produces a hormone called cortisol, which causes several reactions in our body. One reaction is that our sugar levels rise, producing insulin and triggering the process of glycation that occurs when we eat sugar. Cortisol can also harm the skin’s protective abilities that keep it hydrated by decreasing the production of hyaluronic acid, a natural moisturizer. Another negative effect of stress is that it stimulates the production of adrenaline, a hormone essential for our bodies fight or flight response. Even if we are only stressed about a work deadline, not a predator about to kill us, our body can’t tell the difference and it reacts by producing adrenaline to protect us. This adrenaline decreases blood flow from the skin and diverts important oxygen and nutrients from replenishing our skin cells.
There’s no doubt that, in modern life, stress can be difficult to manage, but taking time to relax, breathe and exercise is essential for boosting circulation and giving our skin time to repair itself.
The bottom line: Try your best to manage stress and take time out to relax, exercise and recharge.
Get some sleep: Another essential for keeping stress at bay and looking refreshed, is —you guessed it— sleep. When we sleep, we may be tuned out but our body is hard at work repairing cells and producing important molecules such as collagen. Blood flow to our skin also increases when we sleep, allowing new cell turnover to occur and giving our skin that healthy glow we all seek. Most doctors recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to receive its full benefits.
The bottom line: Sleep repairs and restores skin cells. Try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
How to get healthy skin: Adopt a daily skincare routine
Once our environment and what we put in our body is taken care of, we can turn to the surface-level things we can do to keep our skin healthy. A daily skin care routine that includes SPF protection goes a long way in keeping skin clean and clear.
While a routine doesn’t have to be complicated, ensuring skin is cleansed from dead cells and pollutants twice a day will keep pores clear and help prevent acne and pimples from forming. The easiest way to do this is to follow four simple steps every morning and night.
Cleanse: Use a cleanser to wash your face and remove dirt and pollutants from your pores.
Tone: Apply a toner after cleansing to remove any residual dirt missed by your cleanser and to prepare your skin for moisturizer.
Moisturize: Moisture is key for glowing skin. While cleansing keeps your skin clear, it also removes your skin’s natural oils that keep it hydrated. Moisturizer restores this hydration to the skin and keeps it feeling supple.
SPF: SPF helps protect the skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays. Use a moisturizer during the day that contains SPF or apply sunscreen after. Reapply throughout the day to ensure proper coverage.
There are countless skin care treatments and products you can add on to this regimen to fight aging and address other skin issues; finding what works for your skin type is key.
The bottom line: Cleanse, tone, moisturize and don’t forget the SPF.
Skin cancer prevention: check yourself regularly
Last, but certainly not least, regular skin checks are vital to skin health. Symptoms of melanoma and other types of skin cancer can often be detected early by staying attuned to our body’s individual moles and abnormalities. By checking the skin for changes every month, we can see if there are any spots or moles that appear dangerous. Consult a health care professional early if you notice any changes or irregularities.
The bottom line: Check your skin for abnormal moles and changes to detect skin cancer early.